By Rob Brink
Josiah Gatlyn believes in God. Deal with it.
Now that we gotten past that, let’s get down to business.
One day, Josiah happened to be near Los Angeles and was lucky enough to have a friend let him into The Berrics. The rest, as they say, is history.
No really, that was about 18 months ago. And since then, a lot has happened for Josiah. Including the fact that we all know his name and have seen him ride a skateboard.
He’s landed a grip of sponsors (Stereo, RVCA, Theeve, Select, Ashbury), completed a graphic design internship, started his own headwear company (Usko) with his girlfriend, worked on multi-million-dollar yachts and gone from North Carolina to Missouri to Los Angeles to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida where he’s currently working, skating, being responsible and seeking the answer to one of life’s biggest mysteries: “Do Monkeys go to heaven?”
I hear you have a legit job in addition to skateboarding?
Yeah, I’m working part time with my friend Josh. His dad owns a boat repair business. We work on yachts and stuff.
Do a lot of super rich people come in?
Dude, it’s crazy. We’re working on a 31-million-dollar boat right now.
Jesus. Ever worked on a celebrity’s boat?
Actually, Josh’s dad knows Johnny Depp. I guess he’s from Fort Lauderdale or something. We were gonna go look at his boat one day but it never happened.
What’s the sickest Yacht set up you’ve ever seen?
This is the only boat I’ve worked on so far, but it’s a triple-decker with a basement and a Jacuzzi. It’s pretty much like a huge house. It’s absolutely crazy how a yacht works. There’s a crew of like eight people that live on the boat. The owners probably spend more than $100,000 a day on that alone.
So if you own a yacht like that, you’re spending a million dollars every few months just to have it?
Yeah. We’ve been working on this one for at least four months and I haven’t seen them go out on the boat once. It’s crazy.
Plus they have to pay for it to be docked, right?
Yeah and that’s probably the most expensive. If I had that much money, there’s no way I would waste it on just a boat.
Photo: Josh Friedberg
So most of the skate world came to know you through The Berrics, but I don’t think they all know how that started.
Around May of ’09, I sent my footage in for the Bang Yo’ Self contest and I got second place. At the time I was working in Joplin, Missouri for a skatepark company called American Ramp Company and me and my friend were doing this tour where we’d go around and film at all the parks we built. They were gonna put it all together as a promotional video.
I was near LA on that tour and contacted Jason King to maybe go to The Berrics and he let me and my friend Shawn in for a couple hours. I didn’t think anything of it. We were about to leave and Eduardo Craig came out and started filming some stuff. Long story short, I did a Text Yo’ Self with him, started filming a few tricks and developed a relationship with the people at The Berrics and everything kind of fell together.
Did life change instantly?
Yeah, it was really crazy. The day I filmed the Bangin’ I couldn’t believe that it actually happened. I thought I was only gonna film one or two tricks. The blunt fakie I did on that wall was the first trick that I filmed. I was super nervous.
I guess Berra got really stoked and was like, “Hey, do you wanna film a First Try Friday?” So I did that then went back on tour with the ramp company.
Shortly after, I got a call from Berra. He wanted me to come back and film a Recruit and said that he was talking to Stereo and they were interested in putting me on the team.
Within a week I went from being in this really small town in Missouri, working at a skatepark company, to living in LA and skating for Stereo. It’s kind of crazy.
Oddly enough, right before I moved to Joplin I was living in North Carolina in the middle of nowhere—like, literally in the woods with my parents. There was a good month and a half where I didn’t even pick up my board because I had nowhere to skate.
And now you’re part of the catalyst for ABD, huh?
Yeah, actually it was on Twitter. I was randomly like, “Man I miss 411 so much. I wish it would come back.”
And I think Joe Krolick retweeted it to the other dudes who used to work for 411. Then Josh Friedberg said something like, “Yeah dude I’m down!” or something.
So I emailed him, like, “Dude, I really hope you bring it back. I would do anything for you to bring 411 back.”
This was before Josh Friedberg won the Nikon contest. I really wanted to help him win and he told me that if he won he would bring 411 back. So I got really hyped and made a YouTube video and posted it to my account and a bunch of kids voted. Josh got super hyped and contacted Berra, who posted it on The Berrics. Then Bam Margera Tweeted my YouTube video and it just spread. We got tons of skateboarders to vote and that’s how he won.
So here we are almost a year later and you have the first part in ABD …
It’s such an honor, man. So hyped to be a part of 411. You know kids these days wake up and watch The Berrics? When I was 13 and growing up I woke up every day and put in a 411 VHS tape and went out skating. I’m really, really hyped on this.
So are we. You used to have a pet monkey?
Yeah, when I was really young—maybe nine years old, my brother was super hyped on monkeys and somehow convinced my parents to buy one. There was this place in North Carolina … this dude literally owned a monkey ranch in his backyard—sketchiest thing ever. Back then it seemed normal, but now, thinking about it, what the heck? We bought a monkey from some dude that lived in a trailer.
We had him for like two years, it was rad. We had a pond at our house and he would go and swim in it and stuff but he ended up biting a neighbor and the neighbor threatened to sue us. At the time they had just made it illegal to own a wild species in Goldsboro, North Carolina, so my dad called all these different places trying to give it away—zoos, theme parks, anything—but no one would take it because it was such a wild monkey.
Eventually, we had to put it down, which sucked really bad. I miss him, but it was fun while it lasted.
I wonder how a dude like that gets into the monkey selling business. Did he have a lot of monkeys?
At least 10 or 15.
So it was a full-on monkey farm?
I guess. He probably bought a male and a female and just started breeding ‘em. I doubt he’s still in business now, but it was crazy.
So you have the yacht gig and you had a graphic design internship recently. I think it’s smart that you have a backup plan instead of just relying on skating carrying you through life.
At the end of the day, you have to do what you have to do. You’re a human being. Just because a lot of people know who you are doesn’t mean that you deserve … I don’t necessarily feel that I’m entitled to make a lot of money, but I would like to skate everyday and work really hard to be able to have skateboarding to make a living. But right now it’s not that way. All I can do is skate and film and try my best and see what happens.
I was in California for eight months and it was really hard for me to live. I was couch surfing everywhere and just barely getting by. I didn’t have a car or anything. I kind of felt that if I moved to where some of my family, my girlfriend and her family lives that I’d get more stuff done, rather than being out there and just hoping things work out.
I don’t plan on being out here for the rest of my life. I really wanna move back out there, but for now, I’m just trying to get as much stuff done as possible.
Where’d the name for your headwear company, Usko, come from?
It’s the Finnish word for “faith.” I thought it sounded cool.
Are you Finnish?
No, I’m actually not. I kind of like the culture. It’s pretty cool.
Yeah, they have a pretty good quality of life over there.
That place is awesome. It’s so much different out there. They’re all about family and about hanging out and being friends. There’re not rude people.
They’re healthier too.
Yeah, I didn’t see one fat person while I was out there.
Front shuv. Photo: Jon Spitzer
You know, I tried to add you on Facebook the other day before we did this, and you had too many friend requests so it wouldn’t let me.
Yeah. It caps you at 5000 friends. I don’t know why.
At least people like you.
Yeah. Not everybody.
Actually, the other day I was on the Slap forum and I saw this thread about you kickflipping a basketball net …
Yeah, I’ve seen it.
Good. So a thread about you kickflipping a basketball net spirals into a huge discussion on you being a “religious” skateboarder, which I didn’t know about you.
Yeah. I don’t think of it as a bunch of rules. I don’t view God as looking down like, “Hey, if you don’t do this, you’re going to hell.”
I feel God gives us freedom to choose to do whatever we want and I think everything happens for a reason. There’s a lot to get into, I don’t know how to necessarily explain it, but I do believe in Jesus.
As do many other well-respected skateboarders—Paul Rodriguez, for example. I think when a lot of people hear that someone’s religious; they automatically assume that person is an over-the-top weirdo. But you don’t have eight wives; you’re not preaching to me or sacrificing animals …
I’ve gone to church my whole life and if anybody should hate Christianity, or hate God, I would be the one because I’ve seen so much gnarly stuff in the Church. But I don’t hate anybody because we’re all humans, you know? I feel like I’m blessed to even be in this situation that I’m in right now.
What’s some stuff you’ve seen?
Just super prideful people that think they’re high and mighty because of what they believe in. There’s literally Christians who think they don’t do anything wrong. They think like, “I never sin” and that it’s possible to be perfect.
In my lifetime I’ve never once thought it was possible to be perfect. You’re always gonna make mistakes and you gotta try to learn from them. When a lot of people see something they think is “wrong,” and freak out or are so negative that other people don’t want anything to do with them. They point fingers and get so mean about it. That’s not how you deal with it, you know?
The psychology of covering up your own flaws by pointing out other people’s … look at Tiger Woods. Everyone was going berserk because he cheated on his wife, but I don’t think I know anyone who hasn’t cheated at some point in their lives.
It’s funny that you say that. I thought the exact same thing when all that controversy came out. It’s so dumb. A famous person can do one thing wrong and he’s like the worst dude ever, but there’s people out there doing that everyday. It’s crazy.
So, before we wrap this up then, do monkeys go to Heaven?
[Laughter] I haven’t seen anything in the Bible about that at all so I have no idea.
Haven’t you heard that Pixies song called “Monkey’s Gone to Heaven”?
Oh really? That’s funny. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it.
You should look it up sometime.
I suppose I should.